Novak Djokovic takes Wimbledon villain status to new level after ‘jerks’ boo him

Serbia's Novak Djokovic stares at the crowd who were cheering Denmark's Holger Rune during their match at Wimbledon 2024
Novak Djokovic seems to becoming more and more of a villain (Picture: Getty)

Novak Djokovic has never been as loved or appreciated as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and that was evident at Monday’s Wimbledon meltdown.

There are many people who actively dislike Djokovic, something the Serbian puts down to the fact he doesn’t come from a ‘western country’ as well as his ‘attitude’, acknowledging some view him as an ‘arrogant p****’ due to his unapologetic and passionate desire to become the greatest tennis player of all time.

Other reasons include his on-court behaviour – with Nadal’s uncle describing Djokovic’s antics as ‘complicated’ – given he is known to regularly motivate himself by picking fights with fans, umpires and even his own box during matches. He’s also been branded a ‘whiny-loser’ and ‘non-genuine’ by some critics.

Djokovic has taken his Wimbledon villain status to a new level on Centre Court this year, though, angrily ranting at British spectators in his on-court interview following a fourth-round win over Holger Rune in a gigantic public tantrum.

The 37-year-old was left absolutely furious at the fans who had been slyly booing him, calling them out for ‘disrespect’ and shouting, ‘You guys can’t touch me!’ – before doubling down about it in an incredibly awkward BBC interview, insisting he didn’t regret what he said or did, before abruptly ending the conversation.

Most fans were chanting ‘Ruuuuuuune’ – which sounded a lot like ‘boooooooo’ – but it was later confirmed that some spectators had actually been throwing in boos as a subtle way of making their hostile feelings towards Djokovic known.

‘There were jerks sitting next to me using Rune’s name to boo Djokovic and it became infectious,’ said one Wimbledon fan, who was sat on Centre Court.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia addresses the crowd on Centre Court following victory against Holger Rune
Novak Djokovic couldn’t hide his emotions as he slammed the crowd (Picture: Getty)

‘It was embarrassing. That’s no way to treat a player who has given this sport so much. I wasn’t cheering for Novak before but I am now. I hope he wins.’

Speaking after the match, Djokovic angrily turned to the crowd and said: ‘To all the people that have chosen to disrespect the player, in this case me, gooooooooood night. They were [disrespecting me]. I am not accepting it. No no no. I know they were cheering for Rune but that’s an excuse to also boo.

‘Listen, I have been on the tour for more than 20 years. I know all the tricks. I focus on the respectful people that pay for the ticket, and love tennis and appreciate the players. I played in much more hostile environments, trust me – you guys can’t touch me.’

Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates winning match point against Holger Rune
Novak Djokovic is a seven-time champion at Wimbledon (Picture: Getty)

It’s certainly not the first time Djokovic has fallen out with the Centre Court crowd. During last year’s final he cupped his ears and blew sarcastic kisses in their direction, clearly frustrated at their overwhelming support for Carlos Alcaraz.

Even at this year’s Championships, Djokovic was irked in his second-round win over Britain’s Jacob Fearnley, shushing fans and calling for the umpire to kick a disruptive spectator out.

Whatever you think about Djokovic, this situation is getting increasingly toxic. This is a 24-time Grand Slam champion, who has clinched seven Wimbledon titles. He should really be treated as a hero.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia talks with Andy Murray of Great Britain at the 2019 Australian Open
Novak Djokovic was Andy Murray’s No.1 rival when the Brit peaked (Picture: Getty)

But Djokovic was Andy Murray’s No.1 rival – the true sweetheart of SW19 – and the British crowds have never forgotten that, especially given this year’s emotional send-off for the man who beat the Serbian in the 2013 final to end the country’s 77-year wait for a men’s champion at Wimbledon.

He was also the nemesis of his fellow Big Three stars, Federer and Nadal, who like Murray, are adored in Britain. He came along as the Fedal rivalry was peaking and was left in no-man’s land. Djokovic was the one guy who was so remarkably talented that he could challenge these titans and he became the antagonist. Federer, Nadal and Murray were heroes who ultimately needed a suitable villain.

But the issue extends beyond SW19 and appears to be getting worse, even after Federer’s retirement and Nadal appearing less and less. At Melbourne Park this year, where Djokovic has enjoyed unprecedented success, he was targeted by one particular nasty heckler. ‘I invited the guy to come and say it to my face,’ Djokovic said. ‘He was then apologising and there is an absence of courage.’

While Djokovic has an army of passionate and adoring fans, mostly from Serbia, the fact remains that he still isn’t particularly well liked by anyone else.

Djokovic will know that this is becoming a growing problem. While he couldn’t hide his raw emotions in a dramatic on-court interview, he somewhat backtracked in his press conference, attempting to play down what had happened.

Asked if it was time for Wimbledon to take action against crowd members who are overstepping the line, Djokovic said: ‘I don’t know what Wimbledon can really do about it.

‘In those particular moments, when the crowd paid their ticket… They have the right to be there and cheer the way they want to cheer. That’s absolutely, you know… how they choose to behave or support the player is really up to them.

Novak Djokovic celebrates winning the second set against Denmark's Holger Rune
Novak Djokovic mocked the crowd at the end of the second set (Picture: Getty)

‘Yes.. You could argue that maybe a chair umpire or whoever could step in during certain moments and calm them down. But there’s not much you can do.. you’re not gonna take out the section of the whole stadium out because they’re behaving or showing disrespect.

‘It’s just the way it is. It’s part of the sport. It’s one of the reasons we’re here… it’s why the tournament is so important historically and why we’re globally recognized as tennis players is because of the fans.

‘Because of the interest they put into watching tennis matches, paying tickets.. I respect that. I try to acknowledge that. All the true tennis fans that really respect players.., of course you’re gonna support one player over the other.

Holger Rune of Denmark plays a backhand against Novak Djokovic
Holger Rune tried his best to play down the incident (Picture: Getty)

‘It’s solely up to them. It’s fully understandable. They have the freedom to choose who they back in the match. If someone steps over the line, I react. That’s basically what it was. After the match I said what I said.’

Rune was also asked in his post-match conference about disrespectful fans who had been booing Djokovic and tried his best to play down the incident.

The Dane said: ‘It all started at US Open the first time we played each other… when the crowd chanted my name and it sounded a little bit like ‘boo…’ then we played each other many more times.

‘More like in Italy and France where they don’t pronounce my name the same way. Yeah, now we’re in England. If you don’t know what was happening, probably it sounded like ‘boo.’ But… if we all know what happened… it was my name.

‘He’s played so many matches since he played me last time. If he didn’t remember, it could probably sound different for him. But I don’t think it played a massive part in the match.

‘He was just better than me today. Whether the crowd was this or that… I think it was great support for both players to be honest. They were supporting him on good points. They were supporting me. Nice scenes on Centre Court.’

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